By Amanda Scriver Posted February 26, 2014, 7:15 AM EST
TORONTO A crowd of 500 revelers gathered at Toronto Congress Centre February 8 to watch host Giada de Laurentiis and five Canadian chefs lead culinary teams through a three-course cook-off. The occasion: the fourth annual Chef’s Challenge: the Ultimate Battle for a Cure, which raises money for breast and ovarian cancer research at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The event felt like watching an episode of Iron Chef play out live, and the energizing, engaging vibe was quite on purpose. Melissa Campisi, development officer of special events at Mount Sinai Hospital, said: “We wanted our guests to leave feeling delighted by the evening and inspired by the exemplary patient care and leading-edge research going on at the hospital."
In order to cook alongside a celebrity chef at the event, Chef's Challenge organizers had participants register online and collect donations in the months before the function. The top five fund-raisers could choose whose team they would like to join. The rest of the eligible participants, who had each raised at least $2,500, were selected at random to join chef teams. Each team cooked on site at the event.
In addition to the live cooking demos, the food-centric theme carried out in various sponsor activations. “We wanted to add in elements of Giada's Italian heritage throughout the cooking and the decor,” Campisi said. “This turned out to be a great activation point for our official cookware sponsor, Le Creuset, and our produce partner, Pusateri’s Fine Foods.” Decor included large glass vases filled with dried pasta and tabletop strainers filled with peppers.
As the challenge came to a close and the winner, chef Derek Dammann's team, was announced, guests left clutching empty Pusateri’s Fine Foods bags and were given instructions to shop the aisles of the so-called Chef’s Challenge Must Have. “As an alternative to the traditional gift bag, we built custom grocery aisles and filled the shelves with donated treats from our sponsors,” Campisi said. “Our attendees were thrilled.”